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Evolution from the Prokaryotic to the Higher Plant Chloroplast Signal Recognition Particle: The Signal Recognition Particle RNA Is Conserved in Plastids of a Wide Range of Photosynthetic Organisms

Journal article
Authors Chantal Träger
Magnus Alm Rosenblad
Dominik Ziehe
Christel Garcia
Lukas Schrader
Klaus Kock
Christine Vera Richter
Birgit Klinkert
Franz Narberhaus
Christian Herrmann
Eckhard Hofmann
Henrik Aronsson
Danja Schünemann
Published in The Plant Cell
Volume 24
Issue 12
Pages 4819-4836
ISSN 1040-4651
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology
Pages 4819-4836
Language en
Subject categories Molecular biology


The protein targeting signal recognition particle (SRP) pathway in chloroplasts of higher plants has undergone dramatic evolutionary changes. It disposed of its RNA, which is an essential SRP component in bacteria, and uses a unique chloroplast-specific protein cpSRP43. Nevertheless, homologs of the conserved SRP54 and the SRP receptor, FtsY, are present in higher plant chloroplasts. In this study, we analyzed the phylogenetic distribution of SRP components in photosynthetic organisms to elucidate the evolution of the SRP system. We identified conserved plastid SRP RNAs within all nonspermatophyte land plant lineages and in all chlorophyte branches. Furthermore, we show the simultaneous presence of cpSRP43 in these organisms. The function of this novel SRP system was biochemically and structurally characterized in the moss Physcomitrella patens. We show that P. patens chloroplast SRP (cpSRP) RNA binds cpSRP54 but has lost the ability to significantly stimulate the GTPase cycle of SRP54 and FtsY. Furthermore, the crystal structure at 1.8-Å resolution and the nucleotide specificity of P. patens cpFtsY was determined and compared with bacterial FtsY and higher plant chloroplast FtsY. Our data lead to the view that the P. patens cpSRP system occupies an intermediate position in the evolution from bacterial-type SRP to higher plant-type cpSRP system.

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